Social Impact Bonds: are they ethical?

On 12 and 13 September 2016, members of the international research community descended on the Newcastle University London campus to share their research on one of the hottest topics in public sector delivery in recent years: social impact bonds. One thing that struck me most during the two days was the sheer global reach of the social impact bond (SIB). Whilst I was aware they were well established in the UK, with the 35th about to be launched, I hadn’t quite realised their global expansion until Professor Alex Nicholls from the University of Oxford showed the map from Social Finance’s Impact Bond Global Database. According to this, there are 60 live SIBs across the world and over 160 being developed, including more than 100 in the US.

We heard from Dr Lisa Knoll from the University of Hamburg, explaining how they are being debated in Germany, most likely as a result of the latest cross-border SIB operating in the Netherlands and Germany. We also heard from Duncan Farthing-Nichol, Associate at MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, about plans for the second SIB in Canada.

To me this raised a question: how can they be popular in so many countries, with such different political philosophies?

Read the full article by James Ronicle (Senior Research Manager at Ecorys UK)

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